The Caribbean has long been a beacon for weary urbanites seeking to live life at a slower pace under perennially sunny skies. Stories abound of successful businesspeople and spirited adventurers who “gave it all up”, happily exchanging SUV’s for scooters, high heels for Havaianas and martinis for mojitos.
In recent years five of the 28 nations that make up the million square mile area of turquoise coloured waters have offered a new form of residency – citizenship by investment. Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and St Lucia have introduced programmes which offer citizenship to individuals who buy real estate in their respective nations. The majority of these investments are made by people who do not intend to spend time on the islands and rather purchase properties to acquire a second passport to improve global mobility.
There is another trend occurring in the Caribbean that has gained less attention than the CBI programmes but is quietly growing – residency by investment for persons of independent means. RBI programmes are a hybrid of sorts; they attract people looking to spend some time in the Caribbean for lifestyle purposes whilst enhancing their global mobility options through establishing tax residency and eventually qualifying to earn citizenship and a second passport.
RBI programmes are offered in all Caribbean British Overseas Territories, including Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Monserrat and Turks and Caicos. Of these jurisdictions, the Cayman Islands has one of the most expensive RBI programmes.
There are two options available to RBI applicants in the Cayman Islands:
Investment Certificate for Persons of Independent Means
This option is valid for 25 years and entitles the holder to reside in the Cayman Islands without the right to work. Applicants must invest a minimum of US $1.2 million, of which at least half must be in developed residential real estate in Grand Cayman. In addition, applicants need to demonstrate a continuous source of annual income of US 145,000 or open a bank account with a Cayman Islands Monetary Authority-regulated and locally licensed institution and maintain a minimum deposit in the account of at least US $480,000. In addition, certificate holders must spend a minimum 30 days annually in the Cayman Islands.
Certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means
This provides the holder (and any qualifying dependents) with a lifetime right to reside in the Cayman Islands without the right to work. However, the holder or spouse can apply for a variation to the Certificate in order to obtain the right to work.
An applicant must invest a minimum of US $2.4 million in developed real estate in the Cayman Islands. There is no specified minimum annual income requirement, but all applicants must be able to demonstrate that their financial resources are sufficient to maintain themselves and their dependents adequately. Certificate holders must spend at least one day a year in the Cayman Islands.
This option has no expiry date and it offers a path to naturalisation as a British Overseas Territories Citizen once the applicant has been legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands for five years. Naturalisation entitles the holder to a British Overseas Territories (Cayman Islands) passport and enables them to apply to register as a full British citizen and obtain a British passport. In taking this up, there is no obligation to surrender any existing citizenships.
If the Cayman Islands’ RBI programme is so expensive compared to what is offered elsewhere, why is interest increasing? Trends suggest the programme is appealing to high-net-worth individuals seeking to earn residency status in a tax neutral jurisdiction and also the “value for money” which the Cayman Islands offers for those who reside there even on a part-time basis. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, greater emphasis is being placed on having residency in locales that are stable, safe and livable for extended periods of time.
In comparison to its Caribbean neighbours, the Cayman Islands offers the following benefits:
- No direct taxation – no corporate, income, capital gains, inheritance, sales (VAT) or recurring property taxes.
- No restrictions on foreign ownership of land – Alien landholding licenses are also not required.
- Low annual residency requirements – As few as one day per year is required to earn residency.
- Extensive real estate options – RBI applicant are not limited to purchasing a property from a Government approved project. Any developed real estate is eligible provided it meets the minimum investment threshold.
- Opportunity to acquire a UK passport – The Certificate of Persons of Independent Means option presents the opportunity to qualify to apply for a UK passport after five years.
- Stable government with low debt – the Cayman Islands Government has exceeded its forecasted budget surplus for the last four years and maintains a Moody’s A-3 credit rating.
- Excellent healthcare – Four modern hospitals and at least four doctors/1,000 residents, as well as 1,000+ healthcare professionals for a population of 65,000. Medical insurance is mandatory for all residents.
- Modern infrastructure – reliable utilities and telecom companies, and a feed-in-tariff renewable energy programme. Quality grocery stores and consumer services make living in the Cayman Islands an easy transition for new residents.
- Excellent schools – British and American curriculums are offered and IB programmes are available. Institutions of higher learning (medical, law and undergraduate) also exist.
- Diversified economy – 80% of the GDP is generated by the financial services sector, reducing reliance on tourism and permitting business continuity during downturns resulting from natural disasters.
- British Overseas Territory – The UK is responsible for international defence, internal security, assisting with international relations, economic oversight and providing assistance during natural disasters.
- High standard of living – The Cayman Islands has one of the highest GDP per capita rates in the world.
- Low population density – The Cayman Islands has one of the lowest population densities in the world, ranked 205 of 235 nations and territories.
- Low crime rate – One of the lowest in the Caribbean. For that reason, affluent individuals move about with ease and enjoy the freedom of anonymity without being constantly sequestered in gated compounds.
Despite the many attributes that the Cayman Islands offers, its programme is not for everyone. The entry cost of US $1.2 million is beyond the reach of some applicants and the lack of an automatic second passport deters those who need immediate solutions for their global mobility needs. However, for those affluent individuals seeking a safe and stable locale with modern infrastructure for a place of refuge or even to live full time, and/or a jurisdiction which can be claimed as a primary residence for tax purposes, the Cayman Islands offers excellent value. In some respects, it is the Monaco of the Caribbean but without the density, exorbitant real estate prices or the lengthy annual residency requirements.
What has been perhaps the best kept secret in the global scheme of RBI programmes is starting to emerge as a viable solution for high-net-worth individuals.
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